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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/340

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

there are three palmettos, called the "silver" and "thatch-top palms," and "hog-cabbage"; "sea-grape" (Coccoloba uvifera); the "seven-year apple" (Genipa clusiifolia); Malvaviscus arboreus, a handsome shrub, with red flowers, resembling a small hollyhock; mangrove [Rhizophora mangle); wild sapodilla (Sapota achras); and many others equally characteristic. Land-snails are very common on some of the islands, and the omnipresent lizards (Annolis) were the only reptiles which we met with.

The Genipa or seven-year apple is very abundant along the shores of the islands just above high-tide mark. It sends up from the ground slender brittle stems a few feet high, bearing creamy-white flowers and a hard, yellowish-green fruit, which is inedible. The leaves are dark green and highly polished.

The wild sapodilla is equally common, and attains the height of a small tree. The axillary flower-clusters appear a little in advance of the leaves, which in June add a touch of the brightest spring green to every thicket. The fruit, which is not edible, is covered with a rusty-brown skin, and is usually terminated by the long persistent style. The cultivated sapodilla forms a good-sized tree, and appears to grow spontaneously wherever it has been introduced. It differs from the former chiefly in point of size and in the superiority of its fruit. Possibly the wild form is the parent stock from which the other, with its sweet, pulpy fruit, has been derived; but I have been unable to gather any facts relating to this point. A milky juice flows freely from the wounded bark of the sapodilla-trees, forming a viscid gum, which the negroes use as bird-lime. It is also noteworthy that the Isonandra gutta, a. Malayan tree, from the juice of which the gutta-percha of commerce is obtained, is also a member of the Sapotaceæ or Sapodilla family.

These islands have been largely colonized from the South, principally perhaps from Cuba; and the Gulf Stream and other agents, which have brought the plant-germs thither, have carried them also to the keys and coast of Florida, where they may have first become established. The seed-eating birds, finches and starlings, which are common on Abaco and many of the small islands, serve also as important distributors of grains and seeds of other plants. The great number of shrubs bearing edible berries may be partially accounted for in this way. The annual hurricanes, on the other hand, are certainly powerful agencies in scattering seeds over wide areas. Knowing the frequency of their occurrence and their long duration, we can see how by this means alone an island would soon acquire a rich and varied flora.

    as they were making their début in the water. Thus it seems that these animals have to contend with enemies which are even more formidable than man, and it not surprising that this valuable and once staple product of these islands is fast becoming a luxury.